In recent years, several cabbage introductions are giving this cool-season cole crop its moment in the sun. Cabbage is popular in the vegetable garden, but a few cultivars sound pretty enough for the perennial or annual flower bed.
“Red Dragon” is a full-size red Chinese cabbage introduced last year, the result of a collaboration between Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Asian plant breeders. It was initially spotted in South Korea and trialed for several years. This is the first red Chinese cabbage on the market and the first red Napa grown on Johnny’s Albion, Maine farm.
The National Garden Bureau described the consistently firm-headed cabbage as brilliantly colored in vivid red all the way to the core. The flavor is “slightly punchier” than green types, but is prone to internal tipburn (decay of inner leaves not visible in uncut heads), so trialing in the garden is recommended.
The barrel-shaped “Suzuko” cabbage has a vibrant green and white exterior and bright yellow interior. Texture is described as “crisp with a refreshing bite,” and the cabbage has excellent cooking characteristics. It’s good for fall production in cold areas.
Caraflex, which has been available for several years, has an upright pointed shape, sweet flavor and crisp texture. It can be harvested at full size, when heads are 6 to 8 inches high, or as a mini at about 4 inches high. This one is on Iowa State University Extension’s list of cabbage cultivars good for Iowa.
The Extension also suggests: “Blue Vantage” (mid-season, blue-green, round heads); “Early Thunder” (early season, blue-green heads, excellent holding ability); “Quick Start” (early season, medium green heads); “Red Jewel” (mid-season, deep red heads); “Ruby Perfection” (late-season, medium-size, reddish purple heads);“Savoy Blue” (mid-season, dark blue-green, heavily savoyed heads); “Stonehead” (early, small heads); and “Thunderhead” (mid-season, dark blue-green heads).
Start cabbage seeds indoors four or five weeks before you intend to plant outdoors. Transplant seedlings into individual pots a week after germination, and harden off the seedlings before planting them in the garden, usually in late April in northeast Iowa.
In the garden, plants need moist, well-drained soil in full sun.